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Someday My Printz Will Come
Inside Someday My Printz Will Come

We Are the Ants

We Are the Ants, Shaun David Hutchinson
Simon Pulse, January 2016
Reviewed from final copy

Have aliens been abducting Henry Denton since he was thirteen? Or has he been suffering from mental illness? Some days I believe the former; other days, the latter. But does it really matter?

Probably not.

We Are the Ants is about much more than the end of the world (although those doomsday scenarios were highly entertaining). Shaun David Hutchinson uses science fiction elements to get at themes that are highly realistic: grief, guilt, love, nihilism… actually, this book is packed with ideas and Hutchinson weaves them through a story in which the protagonist is largely passive.
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Anna and the Swallow Man

anna-swallowAnna and the Swallow Man, Gavriel Savit
Knopf, January 2016
Reviewed from ARC

For the first posted coverage of the season, I thought I’d start with one of the earliest publication dates on our list. Anna and the Swallow Man came out in January. It had huge pre-publication push; we received at least 4 copies just to the school Joy and I work at, at least one of which was in a lovely paper slip cover. And it picked up three stars out of the gate (HB, The Bulletin, and PW): not a bad opening to the year. So does it live up to the hype or the buzz?

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The List, Abbreviated

Photo by Flickr user List_84, licensed under CC BY 2.0

Photo by Flickr user List_84, licensed under CC BY 2.0

Traditionally, we’ve launched the season with our massive (like, 90 titles long) reading list, but when we open with the big list, we always end up regretting approximately one-third of the titles.

So this year, we’re going to share a shorter, not even slightly exhaustive list. Here are our top 25 titles, included either because we’ve already read them or because they’ve gotten all the stars (by which I mean 4 or more, marked with an asterisk) or because the author or description have us thinking these are likely to be worth the conversation.

Obviously, we won’t be reviewing only 25 books this season, and we have plenty of books we’ve read that probably won’t go the distance but are certainly worth a conversation and therefore a post. But here’s the 25 we’re most excited to talk about, aphabetized by title because that’s how we’ve been discussing them.

American Girls, Alison Umminger
As I Descended, Robin Talley
The Bitter Side of Sweet*, Tara Sullivan
Blood Red, Snow White, Marcus Sedgwick
Burn Baby Burn*, Meg Medina
Character, Driven*, David Lubar
Every Exquisite Thing, Matthew Quick
Exit, Pursued by a Bear*, E.K. Johnston
Golden Boys*, Sonya Hartnett
The Head of the Saint, Socorro Acioli
Highly Illogical Behavior, John Corey Whaley
The Lie Tree*, Frances Hardinge
The Memory of Light*, Francisco X. Stork
My Lady Jane, Brodi Ashton, Cynthia Hand, and Jodi Meadows
The Passion of Dolssa*, Julie Berry
Railhead, Philip Reeve
The Reader*, Traci Chee
Samurai Rising*, Pamela S. Turner
The Serpent King, Jeff Zentner
The Singing Bones, Shaun Tan
Spontaneous, Aaron Starmer
Still Life with Tornado, A.S. King
Symptoms of Being Human, Jeff Garvin
Unbecoming*, Jenny Downham
We Are the Ants*, Shaun Davis Hutchinson

What would you add? Remove? Actually, let’s play this committee style: these are our nominations thus far. What are yours?

We’ll be back Monday with our first review. Catch you then!

Still Too Many Books, or, a Tale of Even More Hanging Chad

more books_2And we’re back with even more more books, in part 2 of our mega roundup of all (not really all) the books.

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So many books they never end oh god too many books (Hanging Chad part 1)

morebooks copyThis year is just full of books, and so many of them are worth talking about. Sadly, we’re not going to get to everything we hoped to read before Monday’s award announcements, despite valiant efforts.

I’m mourning Leavitt’s Calvin, loaded on my Nook but sadly unread; Seneca Village; Lizard Radio, with a premise so unusual that maybe I will read it even after I ought to be moving on to 2016 publications; and a handful of other books besides. Not to mention all the books reviewed by Joy and/or Sarah, a percentage of which I haven’t read and several of which are clearly among the top 20 or so of the year.

But enough crying over books unread, and on to the final titles we have squeezed in. We’ll run half of them today and the other half tomorrow, because otherwise this post would be out of control.

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Can Lightning Strike Twice?

prevwinnersPrevious winners, new books… Sometimes it means the magic has happened again, and a lucky (well, and talented) author will receive a second (or third) golden P sticker.

More often, the magic doesn’t happen again, but previous winners have a proven track record so it’s a pretty sure bet anything from a previous winner received at least a look from one or more RealCommittee members. Which means we, in our endless stalkery committee-emulating ways, also did our best to make sure we read everything out in 2015 from a previous Printz winner or honoree. And there were a lot this year.

We’ve covered several of these already (see: books from Almond, Almond again, Anderson, Bray, Lanagan, Mackler, Myers, Schmidt, Smith, and Wein), but not a few of the biggest ones. Until today (she says portentously).

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infandousInfandous by Elana K Arnold
March 2015, Carolrhoda Lab
Reviewed from final ebook

I’ve been on a bit of a strange kick here at the end of this season. Untwine and Moonshot in particular really blew me away, but didn’t pick up a lot of stars between them. Infandous is somewhat similar in that it got two stars and didn’t make a year’s best list — and I really loved it. Don’t get me wrong, we’ve talked before about the differences between stars and Printz votes, but…sometimes it does feel funny to be so rave-y about something that not every reviewer gave a star to. And I must acknowledge, as far as this specific title goes, I’m an easy mark; if you have a book on women, society, double standards, and fairy tales, then I’m pretty guaranteed to be first in line. So will this be a book that makes it to the final five? Well, for committee members who are most likely reading and rereading, that’s…hard to say. [Read more…]

Magic Realism x2 (Bone Gap and The Accident Season)

Happy 2016. I closed out the old year by frantically reading my way through a backlog of wonderful (and not so wonderful) books. Today, to start the new year on the right foot, I’m catching up on discussing some books I read ages ago but have been avoiding writing about.

Also! A week from today most of us will be in or en route to Boston, or else enviously reading #alaleftbehind tweets, so we’re in the homestretch! We’ll be reading and posting like mad all week and right on up through (and possibly past!) ALA.

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Honor Girl

honor girl coverHonor Girl, Maggie Thrash
Candlewick Press, September 2015
Reviewed from final copy

I was distracted while reading Honor Girl. The first two chapters orient the reader in the early days of the new millennium; there’s a list of celebrity crushes including Leonardo DiCaprio, Usher, and Justin Timberlake, our narrator is reading Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (and later, Goblet of Fire), and her favorite band is The Backstreet Boys. I spent most of the book trying to figure out if I’m older or younger than Maggie Thrash (as it turns out, I’m older by just six months). Near the end of the book a date is shown which confirmed my suspicion, but I had to read it a second time just so that I could experience the book without my self-centered curiosity getting in the way.

I’m mentioning this at the top of the review because those little references tethered me to the material in good and bad ways. I’ve never attended an all-girls school or camp, nor have I ever gone to a sleepaway camp. But I remember where and who I was in the summer of 2000. Being able to contextualize Maggie Thrash’s memoir through my understanding of myself at that time allowed me to fully appreciate how she captures a few months in her life when everything and nothing changed. It’s beautiful and nostalgic.

In our first round of Pyrite voting a couple of you gave Honor Girl your first place slot. With three stars and solid content to back it up, it’s not a longshot for the RealPrintz but there are a few things that will probably keep this one from the winner’s circle.
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Graphic Novels, redux

OK, I know I’ve already said it’s been quite a year for historical fiction (and, you know, I stand by that), but we’ve had some amazing graphic novels to read this year, too. I don’t know if we’ll replicate This One Summer’s total dominance at the YMAs (OK, maybe I’m slightly overstating there!), but I did have a rave for Nimona, and I’ve got some more excitement for two other titles here. How far will they go? Well, I’d be happy (though surprised) to see one in the final five, and ready to argue hard for the other. [Read more…]